A long distance romance makes one man check his premise about what’s really important in his new relationship.
It was a weird relationship from the get-go; her in Sydney (Australia), me in Wellington (New Zealand).
We met on New Year’s Eve, surrounded by a heaving throng of people. We soon separated ourselves from the crowd. What followed was two nights of excitement, passion and lust.
I returned to New Zealand and we stayed in touch. The passion we’d shared on those nights remained at arm’s length, an actual ocean separating us.
Before we knew it, this absence made the heart grow fonder—it kept the light of that whirlwind tryst alive to a point where we were communicating daily via text, even talking over the phone.
What we felt was real, no doubt, but enhanced by the separation. This intensity leaked into our everyday lives. Soon I was talking about her to my mates, as was she to hers.
In sharing this we soon had our first, umm… moment.
Here’s how it played out…
Her: “Seeing as I don’t seem to stop talking about you, my friends are all asking what you’re like”
Me: “Yeah me too. I’m talking about you all the time. What are you saying about me?”
Her: “How great you are and how much I like you. What about you?”
Me: “…Yeah same.”
Her: “Ummm… that was short. Are you really saying how much you like me, or how much you like having sex with me?”
BOOM. Caught. Out.
Me: [Internal monologue] “SHIT”
Me: [Verbally] “What? Yeah of course I’m saying how much I like you.”
Aaaand so it goes for us guys; saying one thing to our mates and another to her. To the boys she was the hot Australian cheerleader who I’d previously enjoyed amazing sex which had become daily sexting. That was it. That was all I would volunteer. I mean, why would I go anywhere else with it? That’s all the boys were interested in anyway.
Plus if I divulged that I really, genuinely, like really really LIKED her, well, I’d be at risk of ridicule.
Or, if I’m honest, probably thought of as less of a man for sharing my feelings, regardless of whether my mates would have actually expressed so much, it’s the subconscious thought we so easily believe.
I felt strongly for her. Sure the sex was great, but it was the connection, the passion, the desire that made this what it was.
I was aware I felt those things—or some general sense of it—but I wouldn’t dare put them into words and share with the boys. As a result, like many men before me in similar situations, I felt guilty on the phone, caught out, but pushed on through with my lie.
However, this moment stuck with me as a significant difference between men and women.
We love sex. We want sex. It feels good. We think about it a lot. The more the better.
That’s not to say women don’t, not at all. However, there seems to be some evolutionary elements of us men that see us with more desire for it. We won’t go into the science; One—because it can be conflicting, and Two—because we don’t have time.
Let’s just cut to it.
Sex feels good. We love it, we want it. Simple, right?
Maybe not …
Firstly, our ability to get sex has become one of our major a measures of success and validation as a man—the hotter the partner the better. We allow our own measure of success and worth to be dictated by others with this as a significant parameter, feeding our ego.
Be honest with yourself, have you ever (or often):
- Predominantly remarked on her looks and/or the sex?
- Predominantly asked your mates questions about her looks and/or the sex?
- Been subject to those questions above other aspects of the connection from your mates/other men?
- Regularly taken part in conversation that centres on women’s appearance and sex?
- Favouring the above in place or favour of talking about your feelings and what she means to you?
It can seem innocent; we’re men, we have a high sex drive.
We most certainly do, and it is something to enjoy and engage in when it comes from a healthy balanced place. However, constantly and nonchalantly objectifying women isn’t cool, nor is it a path to true equality. Moreover, it shows our fixation on, and need for, external validation with our sexual prowess as the measure of and vehicle for that.
It’s a viscous cycle that prevents quality connections, but also hands all of our personal power away, into the hands of others depending on what they say or how they react.
Where does this come from?
As boys we are conditioned into presenting a false picture of manhood through constant messages such as “man up/harden up/toughen up”, “don’t cry”, “don’t be a pussy/girl/fag”. At the slightest sign of emotion we learn to shut it away and sort it out ourselves because “boys/men don’t do that”.
As a result we develop this inner narrative “I’ll be right. I have to be”. We’ve fallen into the trap of needing to be liked, fit into the crowd, to prove our manhood; to be tough and handle things ourselves and do the things men do.
Then we become teenagers, and the need to fit in strengthens.
This masculine measure of success via sex hits like an avalanche.
It’s not only this, there are a few others:
- Athletic ability and/or physicality; how good you are at sports/athletic endeavours and what shape your body is in
- Financial success; more money means more security, means more power and/or ‘freedom’.
These often strengthen as we become men. We might pinpoint one or two and focus on them.
Either way it can easily consume our lives.
Soon what we seek is a great body, sex, money and a loose concept of freedom in a culture of more is better; more success and subsequent respect.
However, what these commonly translate to goes much deeper. While these can all be in the chase for sexual success, we’re going to keep it to the physical for this post. Sure getting in physical shape is good for us and we should all seek it out in order to better serve ourselves and those around us.
What we have to do is ask ourselves WHY we seek getting the ‘lean and ripped’ body.
On the surface it’s because looking better means more appeal, means more sex appeal, means more… sex. Ask yourself why.
Using “be attractive”, “meet women”, or “to get sex” to power any physical change may work initially, but it won’t last and isn’t going to lead anywhere meaningful because it’s missing the point of what that sex provides.
The issue with blindly seeking more sex
It’s all wrapped up in external validation for our ego; either from other men, or from the women validating us by wanting us; we’re allowing the judgements of others to determine our sense of worth.
This is where you have to be truly honest with yourself and ask:
Do I want sex purely because it feels good?
Is it also because the kudos I’ll get?
What else do I want beyond this physical gratification and kudos?
Is it something deeper..?
When we honestly dig in, it usually is.
As humans we seek connection, as men this extends to significance.
Beyond the physical, sex provides both connection and significance; a feeling of being desired, accepted and worthy.
This is what we need to own; to be desired, to be significant and accepted. The sex that comes with this is connection is what makes us feel best. It’s a double whammy; the physical satisfaction of sex and the emotional feelings of connection and significance.
Think about it – ever had sex (one night stand or wrong relationship) and immediately afterwards felt something like regret or emptiness?
No connection, no significance.
Clinical psychologist and author of Women Who Stray David J Ley Ph.D. comments on this in a piece for Psychology today:
For men, physical affection and sex is one of the main ways we feel loved, accepted, and regarded. For many men, it is only through physical love that we can voice tenderness and express our desire for togetherness and physical bonding. Only in sex can we let down boundaries and drop our armour enough to be emotionally vulnerable.
Internal validation then external
If you’re ahead of the game here you’ll realize that these things—significance, acceptance, being desired—they’re still external validation; they all speak to being respected, trusted and worthy from others.
We must first internalize this by being happy in your own skin. Knowing what truly drives you will provide self-worth, self-trust and self-respect. Then you can own that sex with someone (beyond the physical) brings you feelings of significance, desirability and acceptance by that person; connection with another human.
That’s some deep shit we don’t get taught in sex-ed. In fact, education around sex can be terrible and often focuses on a lot of negative aspects in the name of preventing its occurrence, instead of teaching boys the emotional benefits as well as the more obvious physical conversation.
It all starts with the relationship you have with yourself.
Don’t fall into the trap of blindly using sex for the physical pleasure and the external validation we get from others as a measure of our success as a man without first acknowledging the connection it brings. If you don’t think that describes you, know that it goes so much deeper than the physical and into the connection/significance we need to feel.
Be careful to use sex as one-sided external validation from women without understanding the deeper connection we actually seek.
Don’t compare yourself to others or use their benchmark; instead ask what you truly desire.
If sex comes into that equation, then dig deeper and have a think about what that sex provides for you. Seek meaningful validation based on your deepest desires and human connection, not to temporarily sooth the ego.
Photo: Getty Images